All Good News

Her Name is ESPREE

3

HER NAME IS ESPREE

 

By HERMINE HILTON

 In the breadth of one moment I was attacked by panic. Sheer panic and terrorthe worst terror I had ever or will ever experience in my life. My two-year-old daughter, Espree, was missing. She was gone.

The moment before, she had been sitting in her stroller at the side of my mother, her grandmother Augusta, whom we’d come to visit in Sacramento, California at Christmas, from our home in Los Angeles. We were in the shoe department on the ground floor of a large department store in a busy downtown Sacramento shopping mall overflowing with holiday shoppers. I’d told Espree to stay with her stroller while I looked for some Teddy Bear slippers for her. I soon found some pink ones, which I felt sure, she’d love, and anxious for her smile of approval, I brought them over for her to see. But she wasn’t there. Neither was the stroller. My mother told me she had climbed out of her stroller to join her daddy, my then husband, who was at the cashier’s counter just a few feet away, paying for some shoes. I spotted him, and waving the pink Teddy Bear slippers, which dangled from my fingers, I said, “Don’t pay yet, I want to try these on Espree. Aren’t they darling?” “Espree is with your mom,” her daddy said. “But she isn’t,“ I answered”, and the stroller’s not there. Mom thought she was with you.” With that, my husband and I both bee-lined over to where Grandma Augusta was sitting…alone. There was still no Espree.

We told my mom {whose face couldn’t mask her worry} to stay put, and we both dashed in and around all the neat aisles of the extensive shoe department calling out our daughter’s name. “Espree….Espree…. Where are you?” She was nowhere. We circled the whole area inside and out to no avail. Then we branched out to all the other departments on the ground floor of the store. Still no Espree.

Panic stricken in an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar city, we ran together to the security booth in the middle of the mall. Both of us started to describe her at once to the two security guards on duty. “She’s an adorable little girl….She’s less than two years old….and very small…..Her name is Espree—she always has a big smile….she’s very very friendly…lots of curly brown hair…and brown eyes. She’s wearing a long-sleeved red and white cheerleader’s dress…the bottom’s red, the top is white with a big red bullhorn on it…It’s real cute…It’s eye-catching…you’d remember it if you saw it…red and white tennis shoes to match.”

“It sounds like she’d be very easy to spot—“ said one of the officers—“because of her outfit—We’ll do what we can. Tell your mother to stay where she is in case your daughter comes back on her own. And try to calm down.”

Try to calm down’ is what they said, –not– ‘don’t worry…I’m sure she’s all right’ –not– ‘she’s probably just wandered off’ –only– ‘calm down’. It was the unsaid words, the nonforthcoming assurances, that shot terror into my heart. In that instant my husband and I, having already covered the ground floor of the department store, decided to invade the mall separately, shop by shop, running in diverse directions, desperate to find Espree. I ran into every shop repeating the same words over and over again. “Have you seen a little girl…a toddler…about two years old with brown curly hair and wearing a red and white cheerleader’s outfit?  Her name is Espree.” And over and over I got the same sympathetic reply. Nobody had seen her.  ‘God help me’—I prayed frantically,—‘Help me to find Espree’……….

………..It had only been about a month earlier that Espree had experienced what might have been a very traumatic incident.    She had been riding her 3-wheel pony around the block as I jogged behind. Both of us delighted in this daily exercise routine of togetherness. Although we had been on this familiar route many times before—up the slight hill and down—on this particular outing her pony trike must have hit a bump in the cement sidewalk which sent her and her 3-wheel pony out of control and on a crash course down the narrow sidewalk, with me running like mad behind trying to catch up with her. Before I could reach her though, her ‘pony’ threw her onto the pavement on its way to careening into a tree. I reached her a second too late to have saved her from her fall but just in time to scoop her up from the ground before her tear ducts reacted to the fright of the moment that was registered on her face. Although my own heart pounded with fear for her, my immediate reaction masked my panic. “Espree, Espree” I said, plastering a huge smile on my sweaty face. “How did you do that”? How in the world did you ever figure out how to do a trick like that? That was terrific!”

 When Espree heard those words of praise from me about the ‘trick’ she had performed, her ‘about to cry’ face turned instead into the biggest smile Espree could muster at that moment. My offering of those words of praise rather than an expression of fear had made her feel proud of her ‘escape’ and strength in her survival. …………

 ………..Espree had been missing now for nearly an hour, during which every second seemed an eternity. My husband and I were still frantically racing from shop to shop throughout the endless mall looking for a little girl in a red and white cheerleader dress. I forced myself to fight the panic that tried to insist itself into my mind, and concentrated instead on the positive picture of Espree with her bright smile of survival getting back astride her

3-wheel pony. I imagined myself seeing her in every moment.

Then I heard it. The mall loudspeaker reporting that a child had been found wandering alone on the 3rd floor of the same department store where my mother anxiously waited, keeping her vigil in the shoe department two floors below.

[A shopper had noticed a little girl in a red and white cheerleader dress pushing a stroller onto a 2nd floor escalator and then traveling upward to disembark at the 3rd floor lingerie department. The shopper thought it unusual and precarious for a toddler to be maneuvering herself and her stroller alone, and brought it to the attention of one of the salespeople, who reported it to security.]

The moment the loudspeaker spoke to us, my husband and I dashed from our disparate directions to the security booth, and then immediately to the store and onto the heaven-bound escalators, climbing perhaps three steps at a time, thrusting ourselves right into the 3rd floor lingerie department.

And there she was— waiting for us—slightly confused— and then beaming with delight and recognition at having been discovered, displaying that smile on her face, that same survival smile I had set into my mind for the last hour, and clung to throughout what could have been any parents’ worst nightmare.

I ran to her, my arms outstretched…my insides releasing the torrent of panic, fear, and anxiety I had been fighting against and that I will never in my lifetime forget. “Mommy, Mommy,” called Espree, “I took a ride all by myself. And Mommy I did what you told me. I didn’t leave my stroller. You don’t have to worry. See— I took it with me. Isn’t that a terrific trick?

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Espree is now all grown up and she made it through her teen-age years surviving the daily difficulties of teen-age angst. Even on her knock-down days she always seemed to recoup her footing. She is a loving daughter, surely exuberant and living up to her name, Espree, which means spirit, wit, and vivacity.

As an adult, she continues to explore new thresholds. In the contemporary Internet media world, she is known as ‘the girl who gets it done’ and is currently working on a new .com site to help businesses ‘Save Business Time’.

She continues to face any problems, exhibiting a confidence that began as a toddler. She always seems to make positives out of any situation, even the high-velocity negative ones. I often marvel at how she does it.

It’s a terrific trick!

HH

hiltonmemory.com

{Find Hermine’s column ABOUT YOUR MEMORY online in The Malibu Chronicle}

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